Live/Work Micro-Dwelling 2014 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Published On: 6 April 2015


Adaptability and re-use: two of the most essential qualities increasingly being embraced in the threat of a future marked by the imminent realities of aging infrastructure, urban growth, resource depletion, waste diversion needs, and land capitalization.

As we approach answers through adapting existing structures and infrastructure, we are faced by restrictions of pre-existing materials, pre-defined spaces, servicing connections, vehicular accommodation, code and regulation compliance, and environmental/contextual factors. As a result of this, so often relying on re-purposing existing structural spaces alone does not satisfy the ever-diversified need for various low-footprint land use and density requirements in our communities.

Another element that also comes into play is the exploration of a model for the integration of affordable housing into urbanized communities. At POPOVICH, we have developed the initiative to study these implications and re-envision the inevitable climb of affordable housing need combined with the application of sustainable construction methods in the landscape of housing design.

At the chance of lending another hand to shape the futures of affordable and adaptable living, the POPOVICH Team jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Activate: Live/Work Micro-dwelling Competition in 2014. The focus was to re-imagine and re-invent how contemporary living as ‘micro-dwellings’ can be innovated to sustainable form and function with concepts of modularity and prefabrication, entitled “Case Study House: Contemporary Living”.

Using this effort to catalyze a broader subject of increasing the livability of cities becomes an opportunity to look beyond the immediacy of ‘site’. An added contextual dimension of re-thinking and re-purposing abandoned remnant spaces in urban centres, introduced the idea of providing affordable live/work units to revitalize the urban core of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Leftover urban space represents equal parts challenge and opportunity, giving way for the Case Study experiment presented by our team. In such restricted parameters, our vision was to remediate materialism and concentrate on defining what is important to healthy daily function.

The living environment or “dwelling” proposed with this study encourages a relationship between ‘the modern resident’ and is facilitated by their immediate architecture. Second tier necessities are concentrated communally to centralize energy usage and promote sustainable lifestyle and building function, while also promoting a social atmosphere.

The architecture of Contemporary Living utilizes openness as a representation of existence and the passive systems that allow the building to breathe. Equally as integral was the representation of local material sourcing for the building. The POPOVICH Team researched and directed the design proposal to include a consistent use of locally sourced wood on the interior, structurally, and on the facade creates a unique relationship between patrons, the building, and the environment. This function is also repeated from the exterior of the building; one can reflect on the interior systems and architectural definitions through use of local materials without ever having to enter the private space.

A standardized module system on a grid layout added flexibility to the construction and life-cycle of the building. The idea was to architecturally formalize the adaptability of the space; if needs change, residents would not be restricted by interior absolutes. Capitalizing on air flow and a dichotomy of interior and exterior conditions allowed for the central atrium to act as the lungs of the building.

The grey and rainwater recycling system also utilizes the water resource as a temperature moderating body. Air flows across the water on the ground floor in its intermediate position, as a water feature, and can be regulated as it further breezes through the architecture.

This was one case study by which POPOVICH embraces and explores the cross of local sourcing and modularity in sustainable construction to leverage cost reduction, as well as the potential of attributing high livable qualities in such cases to accommodate a healthy, integrated affordable housing use.

building final2edit